We Need A Spotify For Classic Games

As Nintendo starts to take a more strict approach to ROMs, players’ access to older games is changing. Sure, you could try to find a working retro console and pony up for expensive cartridges, but there has to be a better way.

While the NES and SNES Classic Edition consoles are an enticing proposition while you’re browsing the aisles of a retail store, it’s still hard to avoid heading down other, less legal channels when looking to revisit or play a classic for the first time. This problem feels similar to what the music industry wrestled with in the late 90’s. With modern subscription services being legal and easy ways to access media, where is the retro gaming version of Spotify or even YouTube?


I sat down with Kotaku’s Chris Kohler to talk about why, in many ways, Nintendo and other companies owe a lot to ROMs and why we seriously need to offer a better option to access classic gems.

We talk about our ideas for solutions in the video above. Here’s an excerpt:

Paul: Just right around the corner, Nintendo Switch Online is launching with 20 NES games. It’s a subscription style Netflix approach to this problem [of ROMs], which I think is interesting. I’m curious how you think, moving forward, companies can handle accessing [classic] games better?


Chris: I think that there’s a variety of ways that companies can essentially compete with piracy. Sure, in some cases they could pay money for something but they just don’t feel like it, but in many cases it’s just solving a distribution problem that the rights holders themselves are not solving. MP3 apps were jumping on this idea of sharing songs one by one on the internet, which is just how we do it now. But as my friend Frank Cifaldi pointed out and as I put in the piece, when was the last time you downloaded an MP3?

Paul: I can’t remember.

Chris: When was the last time you needed to go on whatever the Napster equivalent is and download a zip file containing the files? You don’t do that anymore because the music industry looked at it and said “what can we do that’s actually better?” First of all, if you want to just listen to a song, you can go on YouTube and listen to a song. Can’t we have that for video games?

Watch the full episode to hear more. Be sure to check out Viewpoints every Tuesday, and if you want to watch it out on YouTube, here’s a playlist.

Video Producer, Kotaku. Fluent in Spanglish. Tetris Master. Streamer. Host of The Optional Podcast.




What we need is modern fair use laws and modern digital copyright laws, modern digital ownership laws that tackle DRM removal, and preservation laws. At least if you want to remove absolutely every legitimate reason for piracy.

Games as a service is hugely detrimental, in the context discussed here, as it explicitly locks things up, even more.

There’s few things wrong with piracy. Lots of things wrong with stealing what can be legitimately owned while its content owners can legitimately profit. Games as service only hurts consumers and their rights more.

Which is the heart of piracy.